Faster – Demystifying the Science of Triathlon Speed, by Jim Gourley, Kindle Edition
I finished the above book about a week ago. I don’t normally write book reviews because I don’t know how, but I thought I’d look at this book because it’s so practical. I really think that this is the second book to read for anyone who is starting to take triathlon seriously and wants to do reasonably well in the three or four races they sign up for this year. The first book would probably be more training specific, but I haven’t read that one perfect book yet.
In Faster Jim Gourley explains the physics of swimming, biking, and running. I know you’re thinking that he just made one of the top 100 exciting endurance sports in the world more boring, but he actually explains the physics in a thoroughly engaging and accessible manner. Yes, there are formulas, but you don’t have to understand them to understand the concepts because Gourley takes time to explain what he’s talking about.
If you are already a physicist of some kind, and have been competing in triathlons for a while, you may not actually learn anything new. If you are not a physicist, then you’ll certainly pick up some important lessons before going out and outfitting your bike with all of the lightest (most expensive) components in hopes of improving your bike split. For instance, when you read the book, you may be surprised to learn what little difference those expensive light-weight components make in terms of saving watts on a climb, but I’ll leave it to Gourley to explain.
Gourley spends a lot of time on the bike, after all, as he points out, the bike is 50% of any triathlon, but he doesn’t neglect the swim and the run. He explains why those swimming speed suits won’t really work for you, and why light-weight running clothes or the top of the line running shoes won’t actually improve your time. But it’s not just about what you wear, it’s how you move through the medium (water and air).
As I mentioned, this is not a book about training for a triathlon, but he does make a number of practical recommendations for racing faster. I’ll give one tid bit away here. He says one of the most overlooked sources of cheap speed on the bike is the tires, and he’s not talking about the weight, he’s referring to the rolling resistance. Overall, though, as he explains, the number one piece of equipment you can get for your bike to improve your bike split is a power meter (I hope to get one some day).
Even if you feel you have a good handle on draft, drag, aerodynamics, mass, force, velocity, etc., you’ll appreciate how Gourley explains their effects on triathlon racing, and it may keep you from going down some expensive rabbit trails on your way to a faster race. The book is not long. You can probably read it in one or two setting, so don’t think it’s a physics text book. Jim Gourley writes at a very practical level, insterting plenty of togue in cheek humor along the way, so you won’t have any trouble getting through this book. You can read more about Jim Gourley here.